I recently spent some time upgrading one of my Record 043 plow planes. Don’t get me wrong, it worked quite well the way it was. But I thought I might improve its function just a bit by adding an auxiliary fence so it had more surface to register off of when I’m plowing grooves.
After some thought and careful consideration, I decided to use mahogany for the fence. But that didn’t completely narrow it down for me, unfortunately. First I grabbed a piece of what I thought was Honduran mahogany. But as I played around with it, and then planed a bit of it, I quickly realized it was Spanish Cedar (neither Spanish nor cedar, as I like to say). Though I love working with it, and it was nice quartersawn wood, it’s probably too soft for a fence, so I couldn’t really consider it.
Still, I thought it might be fun to make some comparisons, so I kept the Spanish Cedar (SC) on the bench and grabbed a bit of my Cuban Mahogany (CM) and a (real) piece of Honduran Mahogany (HM). To be fair, I tried to select quartersawn stock for all three pieces. I should note, however, that the SC and HM were probably harvested relatively recently, say within the last five years, while the CM is reclaimed lumber from a connection I have in Puerto Rico and more likely around 50 years old by their estimates.
I prepared each of the pieces of stock with the same plane. It was interesting to note the differences in the wood shavings, considering they are all quartersawn wood in the mahogany family. Most notable was the difficulty I had in taking shavings in the CM; it definitely has a denser, tighter grain structure than the other two.
I finally decided on the Cuban Mahogany and went to work, cutting it to the desired size and thickness. I did use the bandsaw to rip the wood as it was 10x faster and more accurate than I am at ripping at this point; if it wasn’t the Cuban Mahogany, I would have tried it by hand, but my stock of that material is limited, so I don’t mess around with it.
Unfortunately, time got away from me and I sort of forgot to do much by way of “in progress” pictures, though I did take the time to gather up all of the tools I used. Amazing how many tools it takes to complete such a simple addition, isn’t it?
After letting it sit for a day or two, I realized I wasn’t really done with it.
I decided that any time I make something myself like this, I need to personalize it. So I thought I would inlay a little bit of something into the inside face.
I cut thin slices of pure white holly and wonderfully scented West Indies Satinwood (also from my source in Puerto Rico, incidentally) and made a little clover inlay.
Amateur Tip: If you’re working with an unusual shape, try inlaying that shape into something regular first; then when you’re inlaying the piece into your work, it is a more straight-forward process. If you mess up the initial part of the process, you’re just out the thin bit of inlay and you don’t also have to try and correct the error in the project.
The little black-handled tool at the bottom of the picture is one of my great $1 purchases at some estate sale. It is stamped “Genuine Ebony” on the handle and I have to assume the blade was larger at some point. It holds a great edge and is perfect for incising where I need both precision and strength. Hopefully I’ll get several more years of use out of it before it sharpens away to nothing…
I sometimes use microfiber cloths as a base when I’m working with small pieces. I found the cloth “sticks” to my bench top quite readily and the small piece of wood I’m working on “sticks” to the cloth just as readily. The only problem is that wood chips stick to it, as well. Haven’t figured that one out yet. Anyway, I used my Veritas micro-router (it’s more than a gimmicky stocking stuffer!) to remove most of the waste, then tidied up with my small ebony-handled umm… micro-knife.
Glue-ups are always really stressful, aren’t they? Well… not really, when it’s just one little rectangle of inlay in a block of wood no bigger than a notecard. Honestly, it was fun. A while ago, I finished a project and had several long strips of walnut left over. I cut them into smaller pieces and added some PSA cork to one face. I keep them in a coffee can near the bench and pull them out when I’m clamping for a glue-up or when I’m putting something between bench vise and bench dog and don’t want little grid marks in the end grain. Very handy, although I have a huge roll of PSA cork I had to store somewhere because I couldn’t find it in anything but a large3’x5’ sheet.
After setting my clamp-up monstrosity aside “for 24 hours to cook” (never understood that phrase… I’ve never cooked anything for 24 hours, and I make most of the meals in our house), I unclamped it and used a block plane to level the inlay. You don’t want to sand holly, if at all possible, when it is inlaid in darker wood. The sanding dust from the darker wood will muddy up the holly and you’ll be properly chuffed by the whole ordeal.
Assuming the fence is going to see some wear (it is a fence on a plow plane, after all), I didn’t put any petroleum distillate finish on it, like I have on the rest of it (gunstock oil). Instead, I opted for the polissoir and some bees wax. I think the end result looks rather smart.
In fact, I liked the end result so much, I decided to put auxiliary fences on three other planes in my shop. One of them, my Veritas Skewed Rebate plane, got completed in short order because I happened to have a nice piece of Rosewood with some sapwood in it I wanted to use.
The other two, a second Record 043 and a Record 044, stalled a bit at wood selection, then another project came up on my radar and they got sidelined temporarily. But I’ll get to them soon enough. Hopefully I’ll remember to photograph the process a bit more for you.
You’ve stared at the poster in the bathroom at Woodcraft and spent hours wondering how one man could create such an amazing piece of functional art. Now experience the Studley Toolchest like never before. Get the book. See the Toolchest in person. Try to get your nose so close to it that Don Williams gives you a patient-yet-stern look that obviously means “back off”. Then smile sweetly and hand him the book to autograph. Then you can look at the Studley Toolchest in your own bathroom!
Originally posted on Lost Art Press:
You can now order “Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley” by Don Williams from the Lost Art Press store. The book is $49 and will ship in mid-May.
Orders received before May 13, 2015, will receive free domestic shipping. The first 1,000 orders will receive a nice commemorative postcard featuring a beautiful shot of the open tool cabinet shot by Narayan Nayar.
When you order, you will have the option to pick up your copy at Handworks in Amana, Iowa., on May 15-16, or have the book shipped to you. All shipping will occur after Handworks.
Retailers for ‘Virtuoso’
While we are certain that many of our retailers will stock “Virtuoso,” we do not know which ones yet will opt to carry it. When we have that information in the next couple weeks, I will definitely post it here.
Why No Digital…
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Like most things in life, it’s best to start at the beginning, so that’s how I’ll handle the first real post of my beading tool collection (where I don’t go off on other woodworkers; sorry about that, tool hoarders; still friends, right?). And like most of my favourite tools, my beading tool collection begins with Patrick Leach…
Sometimes I wonder where I would be financially if I’d never heard of the man from Massachusetts or his website. But then I would have to wonder where I would be spiritually, as well, so I don’t wonder about it too much, if I can help it. He and I chat fairly frequently now, in fact, and some of our conversations still begin with me asking, “Is this still available?”
Anyway, early in 2009, on the first Monday of March, I was scanning the latest Tool List mailing and the description of a Preston tool jumped out at me. I looked at the image before me and was enthralled, to say the least, by the small japanned tool on the screen. That was possibly the first time I’d ever contacted Patrick, asking if something was still available, come to think of it.
A short while later, I opened a package from MA and had an instant connection with this small, pelvis-shaped beading tool with one lone cutter. It felt perfect in my hands and I couldn’t wait to try it out on a piece of wood to see what the profile looked like. With just a quick flattening of the two faces of the cutter, it started working again, probably just as well as it had 100 years earlier.
Recently, I had a brief chat with someone who said they could duplicate the six cutters that originally came with the 1393s. He also mentioned being able to cast bronze copies of the tool, as well. I’m not sure about the bronze copies (unless enough of you are interested in such a thing), but I am definitely going to talk to him about duplicating the cutters, as displayed in the Preston Tool Catalogue from 1909 (reprinted by Astragal press and available from Tools For Working Wood).
The one original cutter that was in the tool when I bought it is still my favourite profile ever made off of a beading tool. But I still wouldn’t mind having the others, to see how useful they are.
Something else happened when I held that tool for the first time, though. It triggered a memory, a thought, about a similar looking tool I’d seen before. It was slightly different – bronze, instead of japanned cast iron – but the shape of it was pretty much the same. I wondered about it for days without coming up with anything, so I started digging through my file folders of ideas and wants and woodworking things that interested me (er… doesn’t everyone have file folders like this?) and found it! It was part of a page off a website (that did not contain the product numbers, unfortunately) I’d printed out for a wish list of sorts. Turns out it was a tool sold by Woodcraft; they had it listed as a Bronze Beading Tool and indicated it was a copy of an old tool they had in their collection. Oh, I know what THAT tool is now! Obviously this obsession has been welling up inside me for some time.
I jumped on-line to see if they still had it listed. They didn’t. (They’d stopped selling it back in 2004, more than five years earlier.) I did a quick search on my favourite auction site, with no positive results, but I didn’t let that stop me.
I then used my Google-fu to start looking for any reference of it on-line. My Google-fu was good! Nowadays, you can search website archives on web.archive.org, but I didn’t have that option back then. Fortunately for me, Woodcraft did not delete their old webpages; they just unlinked them from their main website. As a result, I was able to get to the original webpage and locate the Item Number for that tool as well as the replacement cutters they sold for it.
I took that information and sent a message to Woodcraft Customer Service to see if they could check inventory at all of their stores for the two items, hoping by some chance of luck one of them might still have it in stock.
My luck stayed with me. Sam, from Woodcraft Tech, responded a few hours later, indicating he’d found the bronze beading tool listed in the inventory at two stores. What’s more, he said he’d found two other stores that indicated they had the replacement cutters in their inventory.
I thanked Sam for his time (I still remember his name, obviously, to this day) and called those stores right away. Was it my good fortune that all four stores had the item in question in their inventory? Or was it my bad luck? My pocketbook and I would give you different answers.
I checked my woodworking funds and saw I could just swing it, so… I bought all four items. Within a few weeks (one of the items came from Hawaii), I had two brand new bronze beading tools and two sets of replacement cutters, all in their original packaging.
The beading tool bug had bitten me. Probably several times, even.
To Be Continued… in Part Three, where my woodworking fund’s worst nightmare came true when I met Patrick Leach in person at Woodworking In America 2010. I remember this event quite clearly because it was just three months after my son was born and I’d spent most of the three days in complete disbelief that my wife let me go in the first place. There, Mr. Leach himself put my third beading tool straight into my hand…
Post Script: Oh, before anyone asks, I no longer have two complete sets of the Woodcraft bronze beading tool. As I said before, I’m a collector, not a hoarder. I sold one of the sets to a friend of mine, for what I paid for the tools plus shipping. I have it on pretty good faith that Mike will both use and take care of these tools, so I feel no regrets in getting them into someone else’s hands.
My woodworking journey is very personal to me. I understand that every other woodworker feels the same way about their own journey, so I try to keep the idea in mind when I hear or see other woodworkers talk/post about theirs. It’s challenging, though, when I see someone who just… buys tools. They don’t have any plans to do anything with them but put them in buckets or boxes in their basement. They buy them because they are woodworkers and people expect them to be “tool collectors”, as well, I suppose.
I don’t really think of this as collecting; it’s more like hoarding.
Many years ago, at my really real job, I was asked to document a dialog box in one of the applications we use in-house. The dialog box allowed you to create complex search functions and save them. But then you could also share those saved search functions with other employees, so they didn’t have to take the time to create them, as well! Nice, right? The function had an appropriately-titled button called “Share”. Then they added another button, called “Unshare”, to make the saved search unavailable to anyone else.
I took issue with that last button label. Unshare isn’t a bleedin’ word, is it? Look, even my MS Word Spell Check knows that! So… I may have modified the label to something more appropriate. What is the opposite of “to share”? Anyone?
That’s right. Hoard. I created a Hoard button. And I gave it some appropriate single line help, too. “Selfishly retrieves your saved search, allowing nobody else to use it.”
Then something or other came up and I possibly forgot to change it back to what it should be. The next day, after the software build, I got a phone call from Bev in QA who wanted to talk about one of the button labels in the Saved Search dialog box…
Anyway, my point here is that hoarding isn’t a good thing (nor is making “Hoard” buttons, apparently). I think collections should have some purpose other than to just be a large gathering of tools that aren’t going to see the light of day until your kids are going through all of the boxes in your shop to label them for an estate sale, wondering what on earth you were doing with 15 Stanley No. 5 bench planes. They should be informative or educational or… preserving of some type of tool that may be otherwise lost. Besides, wouldn’t those tools better serve us by being used? Think of all the people who could have furthered the craft of woodworking if only someone had put a properly tuned Number 5 in their hands and let them experience that first shaving!
Look, I’m not saying all collecting is bad. There is certainly good collecting. And I know several people who are excellent collectors. But I think I see a significantly greater number of people who are not collecting, but hoarding. I suppose one could argue that the biggest purpose of a collection is the pleasure of gathering and collecting and, thus, it always meets the requirement of “doing something”, at least to the person gathering them together. You can make that argument, but… that doesn’t mean I’ll agree with it.
With that in mind, with the idea that a collection should be MORE than an assembly of tools of a certain type or disposition, I’ve decided to start discussing my collection of beading tools, to share what I’ve learned, to open you up to using a tool you might not have considered before, to expanding your realm of woodworking. If you aren’t really interested in what I collect, that’s cool; we’re all in this for different reasons and it takes a lot more than that to hurt my feelings. Feel free to skip over any future blog posts that start out, “My Tool Collection…”.
But maybe you’re intrigued by it. Maybe you collect them, as well (not likely, I know)! Maybe you have some information about certain beading tools that I don’t have and want to share it with me. Maybe you have a similar collection and appreciate some of the information I’ve gathered over the years! Or maybe you want to follow me down the rabbit hole as I learn about my own collection, just to see how far it takes me.
It’s a rather small collection, honestly, not even 20 tools at the moment, and I don’t see it expanding too much more in the future. But that is absolutely intentional, to be sure. I don’t want a workshop so stuffed with tools I won’t ever use that I can’t comfortably do my woodworking. I want to collect something that has some innate interest to me, that stirs some suppressed desire in me to have an interest in something mundane and long forgotten by most people. I want to collect something that I’ll also use, thus getting a double dose of enjoyment from them. And I want to collect something that doesn’t take up a huge amount of space.
So when I first saw the beading tool that started me down this path, and it immediately drew me in and made me want to use it and find out more about it, and it was very small, I knew I was on to something. I bought it on a whim (an expensive whim, to be sure) and, as I thought I would, made an instant connection with it when I pulled it out of the shipping box. As a bonus, not only was the tool small, but I figured there probably weren’t a lot of different beading tools made over the years, so my collection would be quite manageable.
What I don’t want this series of blog posts to become is something that could be labeled, “A History Of Beading Tools”. If it starts getting to be like that, I trust you’ll let me know, yah?
This is just the introductory post to my collection. The next post will begin with an example from Edward Preston and his unfathomable numbering system, the 1393s beading scraper. Until then!
PS. Apologies for the pause in blog updates the last few weeks. I finally got into Instagram (see link at top right) and found it to be a most agreeable social media tool! It sucked me in for a time, but I still love the longer written and multiple-picture format of a blog, so I’m trying to balance the two. I also had another opportunity come up that will push me into completely new woodworking territory. It is a little daunting, a little frightening, to be sure. But it will expand my realm of woodworking and make me a better woodworker for it. And I think I’m up for the task, though it may take up quite a bit of my time for the next two months. I’ll be happy to discuss at a future date, but would like to keep under wraps for the time being.
PPS. Oh, and don’t think I’ve forgotten about those tools I discussed last time. They are scrapers; rosewood handled scrapers. Most recently used for scraping paint in many cases, but originally used in the printing industry to scrape screens. I had an elderly retired woman who worked in the printing industry for 40 years confirm my assertion. She said I had a lovely gathering of rosewood handled screen scrapers.
Yesterday on social media, I read a great post by Derek Olson about why he wasn’t going to be watching any major sporting events later in the day, but instead would be in the workshop making stuff and then talking about it on social media. I did not watch the big game last night, either. I gave my reason in a response to him; thought you might want to hear it, as well.
One time I was sitting down to watch the Super Bowl with some friends of mine when my cell phone rang. I excused myself, went into the kitchen, and proceeded to talk to a girl for almost the entire game.
When I finally sat back down, there were about five minutes left in the fourth quarter. My friend turned to me and said, “That better have been one special girl.”
She’s upstairs right now, taking a nap with our son. I haven’t watched a Super Bowl in 12 years. There are just more important things to do, I guess, like talk to the girl you’re going to marry. Or talk to your wife. Of course, when she’s napping…
I’m off to the shop. Enjoy your time in yours, Derek.
And off to the shop I went. I’m working out a sticking point in my latest project, so in the mean time I decided to spend some time cleaning up the rosewood handles on a few old tools I’ve picked up over the years. I found my first one at an estate sale about three years ago for a crazy cheap price and have kept my eyes out for them ever since. I’m up to four or five of them now. With loving care, some 0000 steel wool, and a bit of Kramer’s Antique Restorer, the rosewood now sparkles with swirls of character and the tools gleam with pride, ready to get back to work.
I’ll save pictures of them for my next post. Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to what kind of tools they are in the mean time? Surely the manufacturers of yesteryear must have vastly overestimated our supply of rosewood for it to be used on such a mundane tool…
I also spent some time working on an idea I’ve had rolling around in my head for quite a few years now. It involves bird’s eye maple and one of my favorite trees; the Missouri state tree, in fact – Cornus Florida L., also known as the flowering dogwood.
While looking at a piece of bird’s eye maple one day, I had the notion that the figured eyes looked a lot like blooms on a flowering dogwood, as seen at a distance. I thought it might be interesting if I could somehow add branches to connect the flowers, maybe even bring the branches to the trunk of a tree. It would be a tremendous amount of work to do on a large scale, but… what about on a smaller scale? Like a little inlay panel on a box?
It stayed in my mind as an idea for a long time. But I finally put it down on wood. I pulled out my very inexpensive pyrography tool and started with a thin strip of figured maple I had left over from an old project…
I possibly need to look into a better pyrography tool. I also need to work on my branch shapes. More importantly, I need to emulate the branches of the dogwood a little better, especially the tertiary branches that connect to the flowers. Drawing branches without a subject is one of the tasks I remember struggling with in my Drawing II class in college, so it’s time to get out the notepad, get some appropriate pictures, and bone up on my branch drawing.
But the first attempt is promising! Next time I’ll tackle a slightly bigger area.
Something I quickly realized while doing this is that it will be necessary to find wood with a certain density of bird’s eye figure in order to get the technique to look right. I’ll have to ponder that, as well, as I scrape up a little money so I can head to one of the local lumber dealers who carries a nice amount of figured maple this next weekend.
It was time well-spent in the shop. I don’t think I missed a thing on TV.
Day two for this project is in the books. Ever have one of those days where everything was just… on? Where everything seemed to go smoothly for some reason and things just fell into place? Day two was one of those days. I treasure those days.
On the first day, I got the sides cut to size and the rebates on all four sides of the bottom. My goal for last night was to get the sliding lid fitted.
If you hadn’t noticed, I’m just using ½” poplar from the box store. I’m challenging myself here. It’s pretty easy (my opinion, of course) to take really great wood (figured maple or walnut, reclaimed bog oak, something exotic and dense) and make a box that doesn’t look too bad, even if the design is off or the construction is not clean. If you can sand moderately well and not botch the finish, people tend to focus on the wood instead of the form.
But I want to take plain wood – just something I picked up from the local home center – and make a really good box out of it. Something that draws just as much attention to it, even though it’s just plain ol’ fuzzy poplar.
I buy poplar like I buy pine from the big box stores. Go frequently, dig through the wood, occasionally walk away with a good board or two (but usually empty handed), and stick it in the shop. A few weeks ago, I lucked upon a thin poplar board that was fully quartersawn! Man, it was beautiful and straight as an arrow! I want to find more of THOSE!
It was the perfect contrast I wanted for the lid, so I pulled it out and cut it to length on the miter box and rebated the edges to make it fit the grooves in the sides. Sometimes I struggle with keeping my rebate plane cuts square, so I have to fix them with the rabbeting block plane. But I tried some hand and body position adjustments last night and it seemed to work. These rebates were MUCH better; practically square, even!
Does anyone else ever feel guilty just putting shavings like these in the shaving bin? They look so… cool! They aren’t like your average shavings. I feel like there is something I should be able to do with these wonderful curls of wood! Let me know if you’ve figured out a way to use them, yah?
After that, I used a jack plane to lower the top a bit and even it out with the sides before smoothing (it isn’t long enough to need a jointer plane). Since I don’t use it very much, I don’t mind the weight of my 604 ½ smoothing plane. It’s a beast! But, I can set it very well and I have a great amount of control over it. I don’t usually post pictures of the gossamer shavings, but like I said, I was really in the groove last night…
Now that I have the box proper all set up, I can work on fitting out the inside and maybe tighten up the miters a little. I have some interesting ideas for it that I’m excited to try out! And, if I have enough time, I might try and do a little inlay, either on the front or on the lid. I picked up a box of pure white holly scraps from Bill Rittner, left over from the holly knob and tote I bought from him, and I’ve been dying to try carving some of it up! Or maybe try something else? Not sure yet.
(Raney, hows about you make me a smoothing plane and I’ll stop with the GD references? Not a bad deal, eh?)
Lately, it seems like a large percentage of my shop time has been spent either trying to work on projects for the shop or restoring hand tools. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy doing these things. I love the feeling I get when I finish a workshop task and I can see that I’m inching closer towards having it finished. And I could get lost in tool restoration, if I’m not careful. Much like working with reclaimed wood, there is a big draw for me in taking an old, abused tool and cleaning it up, getting it back into proper working order so I can use it in my shop.
But I’ve spent so much time focusing on those two aspects of my woodworking that I’ve really neglected the part where I make things! So last night I thought about it for a minute and decided on a project I want to make that has an inherent deadline of about a month, which is good motivation to work on it. I went down into the shop, quickly sketched out an idea of what I wanted, pulled out the tools I need for the first few steps, and got to it!
I’m not sure I can use my Record 043 plow plane on a project without taking at least one or two pictures of it. Maybe it has to do with the almost-instant gratification I get when I’m making grooves. Here is a flat board with jointed edges. Five minutes later, here is a flat board with two perfect grooves running parallel to the long edges and a bushel of narrow, thick, curly shavings.
I got to use another one of my favourite tools shortly after that. It is my Disston 12” backsaw I got for a steal and then had Matt Cianci sharpen up for me like a sash saw. If you’ve never used a saw that was sharpened by Matt, then you need to make it a short term goal for the first quarter of 2015. It will change your views on how well a saw can function.
I don’t know if you can see just how smoothly this saw cuts; hopefully you can. It took two swipes of a block plane to clean this up. To quote Chris Schwarz, “Matt is a wizard.” Indeed he is.
I’m trying to learn how to sharpen my own saws. But I like keeping this one handy and sharpened by Matt so I have something I can use for a reference, to show me what sharp really is.
Hopefully I don’t have to try and explain how good it feels to just go into the shop with a basic plan, pick out some wood, and start working, do I? To many, that can be daunting. But guess what. Your fears about making errant cuts or botching your plane work melt away as you get lost in the action of creating.
If you’ve never done that before, you should. Tonight. Now, even. Go! It’s fine to be afraid. But then go do it anyway. That’s my new motto. That’s kilted woodworking.